Human Rights Commission retools with new leadership, members

Tyler Juranovich, Kokomo Tribune, Ind.
·2 min read

Apr. 25—With new leadership and some new members, the Kokomo Human Rights Commission is looking to become more active in the community.

The commission Thursday approved Tom DiNardo, a former Kokomo police chief, as its new chairman; Andrew Durham, comptroller for Center Township, as its new vice chairman; and Evelyn Oglesby, owner of Hobson's Cleaners, as its secretary.

It also introduced Jeff Himelick and Amanda Holsapple as new members, though their appointment will not be final until the city council approves them at its Monday meeting; four members of the commission are appointed by the mayor, with the remaining three appointed by the city council. The other two members of the commission include Paul Novak, co-director of Kokomo Pride Youth Group, and city councilman Ray Collins.

The board has met sparingly since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Its workload has been similar, with complaints filed to the board in the low single digits for each of the past two years.

But the mostly new board members want that to be the case because no one is violating the discrimination laws and not because residents aren't aware of the commission.

Last year, the commission started a Facebook page, had pamphlets printed to pass out that described the commission and its duties and had booths at First Friday events to make itself known to the general public.

The COVID-19 pandemic, though, canceled many events in 2020 and, thus, opportunities for the commission to reach out to the public more.

But with events back, the commission's members now see 2021 as the year where it can be out in the public more often.

"Every activity that we know about, we need to have some presence there, so that people can start being familiar with who we are," Oglesby said. "From little league, to BobKats games, the Kokomo Human Rights Commission should have a presence."

That sentiment was shared by other commission members, including Novak.

"I would like us to be more active as well," he said.

The commission has a variety of powers, but it primarily investigates complaints of possible acts of discrimination in housing, employment and other areas against the city's protected classes, which includes a person's race, color, religion, sex, national origin, ancestry, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, Veteran status, marital status, familial status or age.

Tyler Juranovich can be reached at 765-454-8577, by email at tyler.juranovich@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter at @tylerjuranovich